Did a CIA Drone Really Level Two Homes in Indianapolis?

The theories swirling around a mysterious, deadly explosion in Indianpolis over the weekend sound like the recipe for a futuristic Tom Clancy thriller or a dystopian video game.

Nov 13 2012, 12:00am

UPDATE, Nov. 15, 10:15AM EST: With still no sign of a rumored Russian Aerospace Defense Force report allegedly detailing CIA drone involvement in last weekend’s house explosion in suburban Indianapolis, officials on the ground are narrowing their probe into the mysterious blast. More signs, for now, point to a natural gas leak, according to the Associated Press. An attorney for one of the home owner’s at the epicenter of the blast claims his client’s pre-teen daughter had for weeks prior to the incident smelled a strange odor emanating outside the home. Still, the possibility remains that the whole thing could remain unsolved for some time to come. “Extensive gas explosions are not easy to put back together,” forensics consultant Jay A. Siegel told the AP. “Finding the pieces and putting them back together is a giant puzzle.”

The theories swirling around a mysterious, deadly explosion in Indianpolis over the weekend sound like the recipe for a futuristic Tom Clancy thriller or a dystopian video game.

“It was just mass chaos,” Dan Able, a southside Indianapolis resident, told the Indianapolis Star. “You can’t even imagine how bad it was.”

Able wasn’t the only one to witness the destruction from the mysterious explosion that officials are still struggling to explain. The horrific event left at least two dead, obliterated two homes, damaged 18 others, rendered another 27 temporarily uninhabitable, and briefly displaced some 200 residents.

At first, the explosion looked like the result of a freakish gas leak, like the one that leveled part of a California neighborhood two years ago. But the NTSB, which investigates pipeline problems in addition to airplane and train crashes, has found no evidence of a gas-line leak at the scene.

Now rumors are blazing across the Internet that the nighttime blast was in fact the work of a CIA Predator drone that for unclear reasons had been programmed to take out two Indianapolis-based US military resource and payroll offices. Only the drone’s missiles deviated from their flight courses, striking the homes off of Fieldfare Way, instead.

There’s just one catch: the details have been put forward by Sorcha Faal, an anonymous blogger known for spreading incendiary conspiracy-theory laden reports through the website whatdoesitmean.com. In this case, her source is a “chilling report” supposedly circulating inside the Kremlin.

“That’s a pretty far-fetched rumor,” Rita Burris, a spokesperson for the Indianapolis fire department, told me. “I haven’t heard that one, yet.”

But, Burris said, no clear explanation has yet emerged. With the gas leak theory now almost debunked, the incident still falls under unknown causes. With the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, she said she was able to dismiss one stereotypically Midwestern home-wrecking suspect, though: “We’ve ruled out the possibility of meth-lab [explosion].”

But the alleged Kremlin report, released by the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces (VKO), tells another, fantastic story. It claims that Kosmos 2479, Russia’s missile early-warning geostationary satellite, detected a pair of Hellfire missiles fired from a MQ-1 Predator drone loitering over Indianapolis early Sunday morning. The “intended targets” were the US Army Resource Services (Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution System, or PPBES) and US Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) offices. After the missiles were triggered, “two distinct trajectories” were recorded, then “near simultaneously countermanded” by an airborne electronic tactical jamming system known as the AL/ALQ-99. By the time a USAF EA-6b Prowler, an electro-war aircraft that houses the AL/ALQ-99, had been scrambled from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in neighboring Ohio, “this CIA drone, apparently, deviated from its assigned flight track.”

Responders on the scene (via)

The report, according to the Toronto Star, goes on to note just how critical both service wings are to the US military establishment. Had it been successful, the strikes would’ve dealt a “critical blow” to American defense. DFAS pays out all DoD military and civilian personnel, “retirees and annuitants,” in addition to major DoD contractors and vendors. DFAS additionally supports various agencies – the Executive Office of the President, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Broadcasting Board of Governors – “in support of electronic government initiatives.” PPBES, for its part, oversees US Defense and Army-wide programs that are “critical, mandated, and/or sensitive,” such as “foreign currency fluctuation accounts [and] Individual Ready Reserve Mobilization of American Armed Forces.” Perhaps most notably, PPBES is tasked with evacuating civilians in the event of grave threats to the US.

As of this writing, I’ve been unable to get through to either PPBES or DFAS. PPBES Indianapolis’ number has been disconnected.

A to B (DFAS to explosion site) is a roughly half-hour drive

To be clear, I’m in no way suggesting that this unfortunate event was a case of domestic drones-gone-awry. One of the most gaping holes in the Kremlin’s report—if it’s real—is why were the Predator’s Hellfire missiles set on PPBES and DFAS? Time will tell, of course, and should more information come to light I’ll be updating this post. For now, though, the CIA-did-it wrap stinks of conspiratorial spittle spun out by some mouth-breathing basement-dweller bent on bringing down that socialist Kenyan commander-in-chief. I’ll stick with the gas leak.

Even still, we have no definitive cause for the burst, and no way, yet, to confirm the Russian report. “Anything right now is purely speculation,” Burris said. She added that the city is currently awaiting test results from utility and fire investigations.

If anything, though, the rumors raging around the fireball that consumed a sleeping community raise the spectre of hunter-killer drones stalking our skies, getting hacked, going haywire. And, most chillingly, dazed and terrified reports from those fortunate enough to have walked away unscathed from the blaze are not at all unlike those innocent civilians throughout the Middle East and Horn of Africa, where increasingly the buzz of drones up above crashes down, seemingly without warming, in shells of Hellfire.

“It was like a war zone,” Whitney Pflanzer, an area resident, told the Star. “It was silent after that. And it was dark and dusty, and I thought it was a nightmare — it was a nightmare.”

Reach Brian at brian@motherboard.tv. @thebanderson